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How the Fashion Industry Contributes to Climate Change

Updated: Apr 9, 2020

What is climate change?

Climate change was originally called global warming. This is because the climate is slowly getting warmer and warmer as time goes on. This extra heat is caused by greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide or methane being emitted into the air in higher and higher quantities. Greenhouse gases cause the heat from the sun to stay trapped in the atmosphere instead of radiate back into space. The name global warming was changed to climate change because scientists have discovered that a warming planet causes a variety of differing weather patterns. It can cause intensified droughts and hurricanes. It also causes icebergs to melt which leads to sea level rise and potential flooding. Climate change has the potential to be very dangerous to the human population if we do not decrease our greenhouse gas emissions (Gore).

Scientists have discovered that humans are causing climate change by emitting large quantities of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere each year. This means that humans can prevent climate change from intensifying if we change our behavior. Currently some of the industries that contribute the most to climate change are the red meat industry, the transportation industry, and the fashion industry.

The Fashion Industry’s Climate Change Contribution

The fashion industry emits most of its greenhouse gases during the textile production phase of the garment making process. Textile production releases 1.2 billion tons of CO2 in the atmosphere per year. That is more greenhouse gas emissions than international flights and maritime shipping. The textile industry produces so much pollution because of fabrics made out of synthetic fibers, such as polyester. Polyester is a plastic material made from fossil fuels like crude oil. 70 million barrels of oil are used per year by the fashion industry to generate new clothing items. Polyester is made from a polymer called polyethylene terephthalate, the same material used to make ketchup bottles and other similar plastics. Plastic polyester clothes also contribute to the micro plastics found in our oceans. When people wash their clothes in the washing machine, tiny particles of the polyester fibers come off and make their way into the ocean. While polyester is clearly harmful to the planet, natural agriculturally grown fabrics like cotton are not necessarily better because they often require a lot of land and wasteful amounts of water (Bain).

This issue is severely intensified by fast fashion. Fast fashion pushes people to purchase new trendy clothes and dispose of their old “out-of-style clothes” quickly. 60% of clothing items are thrown away within a year of when they were made. Polyester has made fast fashion possible because it is extremely cheap to produce in comparison to other natural fibers. Polyester is also very customizable and has allowed companies to produce moisture-wicking fabrics. The use of polyester has been steadily increasing over the past three decades. Due to the influence of fast fashion, the average person throws away 81 pounds of textiles per year leading to a total of 92 million tons of textile waste per year. Much of this waste could be prevented if people purchased clothes for the long run and purchased used items instead of allowing them to be thrown away (The Price of Fast Fashion).

How to Lower Your Greenhouse Gas Emissions:

If you want to get your greenhouse gas emissions down you can track how much gas you are producing at this website...

There are several simple things you can do to cut down your CO2 emissions.

  1. Eat less red meat by adding meatless Mondays to your weekly routine.

  2. Reduce the amount of time you spend driving alone in a vehicle walking, biking, carpooling, busing, or taking transit whenever possible

  3. Unplug power cords that are not in use such as cell phone or laptop chargers that are not charging anything

  4. Purchase locally grown foods at your local farmers market

  5. Avoid fast fashion by purchasing second hand clothes or buying items you intend to use for the rest of your life (Holth)

Works Sited

Bain, Marc. “If Your Clothes Aren't Already Made out of Plastic, They Will Be.” Quartz, Quartz, 6 June 2019,

Gore, Al. An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth To Power. Simon & Schuster, 2017.

Holth, Jesse. “7 Instant Ways To Reduce Your Carbon Footprint.” HuffPost, HuffPost, 6 June 2017,

Our Changing Climate. “Is Fast Fashion Destroying Our Environment?” YouTube, YouTube, 23 Nov. 2018,

“The Price of Fast Fashion.” Nature News, Nature Publishing Group, 2 Jan. 2018,

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